Written by: Director Robert Groves
We flew to Noorvik mid-morning on Monday, January 25, a 10-seat plane-full of state dignitaries. The temperature at landing was a balmy 7 F. The one-strip airport is about one mile from the village. There were two dog sleds nearby, one for the lieutenant governor and one for me. My musher was a 12-year old student, who, after we moved out of the congestion of the airport, stopped and allowed me to mush the team for a bit of time. Great fun; the lead dog was instantly responsive to his commands, and even though my training was limited to about 45 seconds, it was a blast.
We arrived at the school to see the entire student body out on the portico of the school, applauding the arrival of the census to Noorvik (wouldn’t it be great if every city in the US greeted census workers with such enthusiasm?). I met the elders of the village, who were assembled in the Inupiat culture room, now used to instruct the children in their native language.
We visited a few classrooms where I found that the kids were totally on top of why the census is done, how often it’s done, and how it benefits the country.
I also participated in a few satellite uplink interviews with various media, accompanied by a 12th grade student who talked about how the census fits into Noorvik’s future.
At 1PM, I rode with the mayor of Noorvik on an ATV to visit the very first household to be enumerated in the 2010 Census. I knocked on the door and was ushered in. We completed the interview in just a few minutes; I exited to see a whole slew of press people down the road. I was happy to announce, “One down; 309 million more to go!”
I returned to the school, which is clearly the hub of social activity in the small village, to have lunch with the school children. More interviews with press; a large gathering in the gymnasium with the entire village assembled; an exchange of gifts; speeches; native dancing.
The 2010 Census has begun – in a remote village of Alaska, with one household, and the support and love of the thousands of residents. It will continue for several months – in big cities, in small towns, in institutions, among the homeless, for the rich, and for the poor.
The country is on its way to being counted!